Musings on research, international development and other stuff

Post 2015 high-level panel report


So I have just managed to read through the recently published report from the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons* in which they give their views on the post 2015 agenda. I found it a really good, and inspiring read. Of course it’s easy to be cynical about these kind of reports and say that they will make no difference but I think we should welcome the fact that some fairly important and powerful people have been seriously thinking about what we mean by development and how we might achieve it. And I think they have been much more visionary than some expected.

In case you don’t have time to read it, the panel suggest ‘five big transformative shifts’ which are, in summary:

  1. Properly tackle inequality
  2. Embed environmental sustainability in development
  3. Drive economic transformation
  4. Support effective institutions
  5. Build a new global partnership

The report also provides a list of ‘illustrative’ goals which they seem to be setting forward as a starting point for discussions (although, as argued here, this probably won’t stop everyone and their dog jumping in to complain that their pet issue is not included in them!).

So, I thought I would give a quick summary of three things I particularly loved, and two minor quibbles I have with the report.

Stuff I loved

1. It is great that the panel highlights that developed countries have a major responsibility to act – both by reducing their impact on the environments and by taking a serious look at how their systems (or lack thereof) might be contributing to poverty and corruption. People from developing countries are rightly tired of being criticised by politicians from rich countries which are destroying the global environment and benefitting from corrupt businesses. I am therefore really pleased to see the call for developed countries to ‘get their house in order’.

2. I am delighted that the ‘illustrative’ goal on education includes quality (as well as quantity). As I discussed in my last post, we need to go beyond getting ‘bums on seats’ and instead think about how to improve the amount is actually learnt.

3. I really welcome the increased focus on governance and institutions in the report and was particularly pleased that the authors highlight that achieving fair and inclusive societies is an aim in itself – as well as a route to achieving poverty reduction. Of course, we all realise that achieving this is very difficult but at least by putting it at the forefront of their recommendations, the panel have managed to respond to one of the major criticisms of the millenium development goals.

A couple of criticisms

1. There is a section on the importance of science and technology but I felt it adopted the rather hackneyed narrative that investment in science and technology will automatically lead to economic growth. I have argued before that, while I do support investment in research, we need to think a bit more carefully about how we expect that investment to contribute to society rather than just assuming that it will lead to some magical technological fix.

2. As I mentioned above, it is really wonderful to see an emphasis on quality of education – but it only mentions primary and secondary education. Surely, if we want countries to have the human capital they will need to pull themselves out of poverty we will also need to have high quality tertiary education?

So, those are my initial thoughts – I am really impressed by what they have achieved and think it is a good and inspiring read. There are a few aspects that I am particularly happy to see – and just a couple of parts where I would have liked a slightly more nuanced approach. But what do others think? I am really interested to hear your thoughts.


Me, auditioning for the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on drinking wine and eating cheesecake... I'm just waiting for their call...

Me, auditioning for the ‘High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on Drinking Wine and Eating Cheesecake’… I’m just waiting for their call…


*This, incidentally, is a fabulous name for a committee and I think my new aim in life is to be on a ‘High-level Panel of Eminent Persons’. I am less sure about what I should be eminent in (can one be eminent in something or do you just become generally eminent?)…


7 thoughts on “Post 2015 high-level panel report

  1. There’s a lack of emphasis on Global Economic Governance reform or realigning the international aid architecture

  2. I agree Kirsty this is a good report and I like the flexibility in setting national targets within a global framework. The big issue is monitoring outcomes effectively – data will help but someone still needs to inspect/police procrastinating government ministries and agencies with the threat of corrective action. What does anyone do about North Korea?

  3. Thanks Kirsty. Good report. Putting aside the easy cynicism with reports like these, a few things stood out. Like you mentioned the push for developed countries to get their house in order particularly on consumption, tax evasion and illicit capital transfers. This is an issue that has been slowly rising up the agenda and hopefully will get tackled. The losses to developed and developing countries are huge. We should of course not forget that (if?) when this happens there will be winners and losers but hopefully it will be more transparent and fair. It is a bit of a shame that it has taken UK and US citizens to be upset by global corporations before governments even contemplate acting on it.

    I really like the push to make post2015 data easily available to citizens and to ensure it is tracked at all levels so we don’t just have abstract numbers but a real sense of what is working and which income and social groups are really benefiting. This data with skills to access and use it are potentially important tools for holding governments to account and pushing for tansparency.

    Finally the tone is subtly different, more about joint responsibility. Like you I am broadly supportive and think the flexibility Nick mentions above of national targets within a global framework comes through well. We wait.

  4. Thanks for these comments. I have been thinking a bit more about this report since writing the blog and one thing I don’t think I did justice to was just what an amazing accomplishment it is that the panel managed to come up with such a concise and compelling document. It must have been hard enough to get consensus between the 27 people on the panel – all of whom are very busy people and who are spread all over the world. But they had the additional hurdle of having to consult with.. basically the whole world! I’ve run a few consultations in my time and know how challenging it can be even when you are just gathering views from within one organisation – so this task was trully massive. I would be intrigued to know more about the actual logistics of it – I am guessing there are quite a number of staff /secretariat members who have had an exciting year… but are very much in need of a holiday!

  5. Really interesting post Kirsty,

    Regarding quality of education, I agree with you that it is great that we are moving on from just aiming for more ‘bums on seats’. Eric Hanushek from Stanford recently recorded a short video for us including some of his thoughts on this topic:

    Having previously worked in the tertiary health education sector, I am encouraged by your comment that improving tertiary education should also be considered as a priority, as well as primary and secondary. Can you recommend any papers or perhaps an expert in tertiary health education quality assurance?


  6. Hi Kirsty, two points on education:

    1) I agree with you that the emphasis should pass from education for all (huge progress has been achieved in this field) to quality of education – especially I think that a paramount issue is for educational systems to become more balanced (equal?); research shows that in some developing contexts (but not only), teachers tend to focus their attention on pupils that are ex ante “more able” (coming from more educated and wealthier background), leaving behind the ‘less able’ (from less educated and poorer background), who arguably would benefit more from education; this is not because teachers are unable to teach, but just the system works this way (human beaings work this way?) – the only feasible way I see to change this is throughout public policies generating incentives to increase quality of education for all (also the poorest!). Even one of the ‘Eminent Persons’, Abhijit Banerjee, shared his experience of privileged Indian children coming from a wealthier family who, even not at all interested in studying, has been pushed to continue by parents and teachers – now he is professor at MIT and one of the most influential development economists of the current decade. I would not be surprised if other ‘Eminent Persons’ had similar experiences

    2) As Stephen, I think you made a very good point not on focussing only in primary and secondary education – the risk is that the best students (probably also richer) will have the possibility to go studying abroad and will never come back; governments should make this option much more puzzling improving the local offer of higher education (that will also attract the best students from abroad)

    3) Again, on quality of education – knowing your experience and background, I am quite confident you are also thinking about pedagogy techniques used for teaching and I think it is worth to stress that knowing the subject does not translate directly into being a good teacher/trainer

    Thanks for the thought provocative post!

  7. Pingback: Higher Education – my two (well actually four) cents | kirstyevidence

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